Tel: +44 (0)20 8694 8600
Address: 79 Blackheath Road, Greenwich, London SE10 8DA
Cuisine Type: modern European
Deptford Bridge (DLR)
In a city offering such choice and diversity as London, I often wonder why it is that its residents settle for the ubiquity of the formulaic chains. How can we explain the phenomenal growth of Pret a Manger as a lunch destination, the presence of Pizza Express rather than a family run Italian trattoria on so many high streets, and the triumph of Starbucks and its ilk over the unique and quirky cafes that used to attract a loyal following of regulars? Is it laziness, or the safety in opting for the familiar – it may not be the best, but at least you know what you’re going to get?
I mourn this trend towards homogenisation, but none more so than the rise of the “trendy” bars that serve mediocre food. I won’t name and shame (oh, okay then, All Bar One), but at the last such establishment I visited we were told that hot food wasn’t available because the microwave was broken, and when I asked for the salmon ciabatta without wasabi mayonnaise, that the fillings were pre-prepared and they couldn’t make one up specially. Which is why Gastro Gastro, a bar/restaurant in Blackheath, came as a welcome surprise. Food is central to operations, rather than a profitable sideline, and the difference is noticeable.
The spacious room, simply decorated, with jazz versions of classic songs playing in the background, all make for a pleasant dining environment. Bread is baked on the premises. There is a respectable wine list, with colourful descriptions a la Gilly Goolden. But best of all, the food is varied and adeptly executed.
To start, Omelette Arnold Bennet was all that it should have been. Light and fluffy with a creamy filling of smoked haddock topped with parmesan, it was served in its own frying pan with a well-dressed mixed leaf salad. My mum’s chillis stuffed with cod brandade contrasted the saltiness of the fish with the unexpected sweetness of the peppers. Other starters include chicken livers, smoked salmon or ham with poached egg and hollandaise, or soup of the day.
Mains also impressed. Gnocchi materialised as little polenta cakes, topped with wild mushroons, rocket and parmesan, in a rich tomato sauce. Roasted sea bass was spectacularly presented, served whole, upright with the back split open to remove the bones, then stuffed with a mound of rocket, parmesan and toasted almond salad, caramelised onions and a drizzling of treacly reduced balsamic vinegar dressing. Other dishes we narrowly missed ordering were steamed king prawns with chilli dressing, and the meat-fest that the mixed grill brought to mind. Maybe next time.
Desserts are comparatively limited. We opted for apple and apricot pudding over the chocolate and strawberry trifle or stilton and biscuits and finished with cappucinos, pronounced well-made by my mum, one of the severest coffee critics I know.
So, all in all, an enjoyable and uplifting experience. All Bar One hasn’t taken over Greenwich yet, so be brave, branch out and try somewhere other than a chain.